Do I think homeschooling and the missional life are incompatible? Absolutely not. This is the beginning of a post I wrote for the Jesus Creed blog in response to Tony Jones’s recent posts on homeschooling.
I recently read the posts by Tony Jones about homeschooling (“Death to Homeschooling” and “Why Homeschoolers Do Not Understand Missional”), in which he argues that homeschooling by its very nature runs counter to missional living. Jones states that “missional means showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation,” and that choosing to homeschool ones’ children results in an abdication of our “God-given role as a missional member of society.”
Let me just highlight two fallacies in Jones’s arguments, and offer my perspective on why homeschooling and living the missional life can absolutely go hand in hand with one another.
First of all, homeschooling one’s children does not automatically result in an anti-missional lifestyle any more than sending one’s children to public schools guarantees a missional one. It doesn’t matter what type of school your children attend. The greatest influence on a child’s life that will determine how missional he or she becomes is whether or not that child’s parents are living a missional lifestyle themselves.
I know plenty of Christian parents with children in public schools who lead the exact opposite of a missional lifestyle. They are caught up in the “race to nowhere”, buying into the fallacy that being a good parent means investing all of your resources and time into the furthering of your own children’s talents and abilities, without a thought to what is happening to others in the neighborhoods and communities around them.
In addition, the pull of so-called “desirable” school systems turns the decision to send one’s children to public schools into less a missional choice and more one influenced by the overriding desire to ensure a safe, secure, and successful future for one’s kids.
Yes, families with kids in public school may cross paths with a larger swath of “society” on a daily basis than homeschooled kids, but that is no guarantee that the public-school Christians will actually display Christ-like compassion and sacrificial love towards their neighbors. Look no further than the behavior of the religious leaders in the story of the Good Samaritan to see a depiction of faith unmoved to action.
Conversely, I know plenty of parents who choose to homeschool their kids and who lead unbelievably missional lives. Like Carisa, who with her husband and children regularly minister to the people they meet in their inner-city Philadelphia neighborhood. I wrote about Carisa in my book The Missional Mom, and she says this about her family’s experience:
“We have prisoners and heroin addicts in our home all the time because my husband leads the recovery ministry here. These are people we count as friends, who we have Thanksgiving with, who my kids will hug and call ‘Uncle.’ These are people I love.”
If Carisa’s family is not considered an example of demonstrating Christ-like compassion to other human beings, I don’t know who is.
(You can read the entire post here.)
We’ve made it through the first few weeks! This year, our local school district started astonishingly early–August 15th!–so I felt some pressure to follow suit, if not exactly at the same time, then soon thereafter. So we officially started on August 20th, and it’s been a 3-week sprint since then of trying to stay on top of it all!
My three sons (DS10, J.; DS7, S. and DS5, A.) are all doing school at home, and here is an outline of our curriculum choices this year:
DS 10, 5th Grade:
- Bible, History, Science, Vocabulary: My Father’s World, Rome to Reformation
- Math: Singapore Math 3B
- Language Arts: First Language Lessons 4, Writing With Skill, Spelling Workout F, New American Cursive
- Languages: First Form Latin and Rosetta Stone Spanish
- Geography and Logic (Mind Benders) as time allows
- Bible, History, Science, Vocabulary: together with DS 10
- Math: Singapore Math 1B
- Language Arts: Writing With Ease 2, First Language Lessons 2, Spelling Workout B, New American Cursive
- Languages: Prima Latina and Rosetta Stone Spanish
- Geography and typing as time allows
- My Father’s World Kindergarten
- Math: Singapore Math Kindergarten
- Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading
We are also trying to incorporate more physical activity time together, including more stretching together which we’ve never done before–good for both me and the boys! And today was our first day back at our weekly homeschool co-op, with all three boys enrolled for the first time. Big boys do a variety of gym-related classes, and the little one takes karate and also a couple of preschool/kindergarten-aged classes. And I get time to catch up on work and blogging. Win-win for all!
How long will we continue the homeschooling life? I honestly have no idea. Next year, our eldest could start middle school, and it will be a decision point for us. But for now, we are going to try to make the most of this year and enjoy our study of Ancient Rome and beyond.
(This article originally appeared on Christianity Today‘s This is Our City website.)
When I was 6 and my dad had been hired by the U.S. government to work as an economist, one of the first things he and my mom did after we moved was to call the few fellow Korean immigrants they knew in the D.C. area.
“Where are the good schools?” they interrogated. When they ran out of people to call, they called their friends’ friends and asked the same question.
It took no time to build a list of acceptable school districts, a list that concurrently created the boundaries for where we would consider living. If a city was not on that list, it did not matter how affordable the housing was, how much more my parents could get for their meager dollars—a good school was the only choice that mattered.
Not surprisingly, when my husband and I reached the same point for our family, needing to find somewhere to settle down and raise our three young boys, the school issue became the first factor we considered as well. Ofcourse we were going to live somewhere with a good school district. Naperville, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, had the right school credentials and a critical mass of our fellow church members who lived there. It was an easy choice.
We moved to Naperville for the public schools, but we ended up becoming a homeschooling family.
One day, I was interviewing a fellow Naperville mom for a project, and almost as a side note she mentioned that she had homeschooled her kids. I asked her what her main reasons were for homeschooling, and what she said stuck in my mind: “I wanted them to be able to enjoy their childhood. It goes by so fast.”
My eldest son was then in the Naperville schools as a first-grader, and we were experiencing the opposite of “enjoying childhood.” By the time he came home, ate a snack, did his homework, and practiced piano, it was nearly dinnertime. Every day felt like a grind, every day felt like we were in some sort of elementary-aged pressure cooker.
Also, we’d experienced red flags in his public school education experience, flags that I had just ignored or downplayed, but now they kept reemerging, clamoring for attention. Our son’s grip on basic addition and subtraction facts was shaky. The teacher-approved first-grade readers he brought home were all picture books well below his level. A classmate was being manipulative in his relationship with our son: “You better jump from the top of that pole or else I’ll stop being your friend!”
My initial reaction to the nudging I sensed in my heart—that God wanted us to give homeschooling a fair evaluation—was unequivocal: “No way, God.” But the more I struggled against it, the more I sensed his answer: “Just look into it.”
Resigned, I started doing research. I knew two other people who homeschooled, and when I called one to ask questions, she responded, “I should warn you—everyone I speak to about homeschooling ends up being convinced to try it.”
And so it was for us, after a process of opening up to the idea as I learned more about it. We’re nearly three years in, and while I would not want to mislead anyone about the challenges of homeschooling, the workload involved, and the never-ending questions (“Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much?”), I’ve been pleased by a number of unexpected results.
My boys have become close to one another by virtue of being each others’ most constant playmates, but they are also comfortable interacting with a wide variety of ages, children to adults. They can spend time on tasks and topics that interest them whether it’s typical for the age or not, such as my 9-year-old, who is working on the 20th page of his latest fantasy masterpiece, or my 6-year-old, who is intent on learning to type so he can write his own stories one day. We can spend a Sunday evening staying up late serving meals in our church’s soup kitchen because we aren’t forced to get up early Monday morning. My kids have also developed a better understanding of what it means to live out one’s calling by going to Chicago to see their classical pianist-dad perform at a weekday noontime concert on Michigan Avenue, or to support their mom as she gives a talk to an auditorium full of Moody Bible Institute collegians.
But the most surprising result of all? By breaking away from the public-school system that we had originally been so intent on entering, we no longer follow a defined success narrative that guides the paths of so many families around us. Ultimately, I think this was what God wanted to show me by encouraging this change in our family. I no longer see “success” only resulting from following the typical life story that my generation and I were encouraged to follow: go to a good school, get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job, then get married and have kids and repeat the cycle all over again.
My parents are still befuddled by our decision to homeschool their grandsons; this was never what they would have or could have chosen for me and my brother. But by virtue of their many sacrifices, they enabled me to pursue a different educational path for my kids. Although I cannot say how long we will continue on the homeschooling journey, for now it has turned out for us to be the best choice.
More than another month has sped by! I am still playing catch-up and wonder if I will ever feel as though I am on top of what is happening in school. I am constantly struggling with the “are we doing enough” question; between our being a slow-moving family in the morning, plus building in our music practicing first thing after breakfast, we aren’t starting academic work until close to 9:30-10 a.m. most days! I marvel at those homeschooling families that are done by noon. This will likely never be our experience!
“Anakin” (4th grade) will usually do a total of 3.5 hours of work, plus about an hour of reading time (combination of books related to our curent subjects and then children’s fiction.) Obi-Wan (1st grade) will finish his work earlier and be done within 2 to 2.5 hours, plus about 45 minutes of reading time and another 15 minutes of typing. This is less than what they would do at school, I know, although by the time you subtract lunch, recess, and all the moving around from class to class from a 6.5 hour school day we probably aren’t that far off. But this is one of the hard things about homeschooing, the constant worry and fear that we aren’t keeping up!
Then again, our kids have also had the pleasure of unique experiences that kids do not always have the chance to experience in school, such as visiting downtown Chicago to see their dad play in a live recital that was broadcast by the classical radio station…
|Chicago Cultural Center, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert!|
Proud of dad who did a great job!
…and also practicing their oral communication skills in front of an audience of 1,000 people, helping me speak at the annual Moody Bible Institute Missions Conference! They each shared their name, age, and what they loved about Moody. The students, in turn, loved them and gave them raucous applause!
We also had a fabulous time at the Field Museum in Chicago, checking out their Ancient Egypt exhibit which really brought to life everything we had been reading with regards to pyramids, mummies, and hieroglyphics. I don’t think I have ever appreciated an exhibit as much as I did this one!
|Amazing mummies and hieroglyphics at the Field Museum!|
|Shadufs are more fun to see replicated in person than in a book!|
|“Pyramid blocks are way heavier than they look!!!”|
In addition to our continued focus on ancient worlds, Anakin has enjoyed his science activities about water and air (with the brothers occasionally joining in!)…
…and Obi-Wan has been focusing on the natural world. He has probably enjoyed the study about rivers the most, topped by a visit to the local river closest to our house with his little brother.
Last week we enjoyed an “Egyptian meal” with freshly-made pita bread (Obi-Wan helped to make it!), nuts and dried fruit, cucumbers and yogurt, and various cheeses. We discussed how lovely and refined our flour is compared to what the ancient Egyptians ate. Anakin shared that often the bread from that time had sand in it, which contributed to tooth decay for the people who lived back then! It’s funny the details that stick in the boys’ minds when they read!
Lastly, Anakin also began reading Exodus with a focus right now on the ten plagues on Egypt. To help them experience the second plague of frogs a little more vividly, I cut out a bunch of frogs from green cardstock paper, and snuck into the two older boys’ rooms while they were sleeping, then covered their beds with “frogs.”
The next morning, Anakin came running upstairs, having taped a bunch of frogs to his pajamas, and jumping up and down yelling, “Frogs! Frogs! I can’t get them off of me!!” Meanwhile, Obi-Wan was content to suffer with frogs in his mouth. =)
We may have our struggles and challenges, but overall, moments like these make it all worth it. =)
So just to cement the idea that my family is golf-crazy…I just needed to post some photos from our special outing today to the BMW Championship which is being held at a golf course in the Chicagoland area this week. As I mentioned last post, this week is a “light week”, so it was no problem for us to take off in the middle of the week to do something like this! (I love the flexibility of homeschooling!)
Today was the last practice round of the tournament, and I thought our chance of seeing Tiger Woods would be higher if we went in the morning as he typically plays his practice rounds early versus late. I wasn’t sure I could handle all three boys by myself, especially our youngest, who is prone to screaming when he doesn’t get his way (and a screaming toddler is not exactly a welcome addition on a golf course!) But I decided, we’ll give it a try, and the worst case scenario is that we don’t see anything and we come back home early. I prepped the older boys accordingly, so that their expectations would remain in check, but all they wanted to do was to see Tiger despite everything I said.
We arrived at Cog Hill golf course a little after 9 a.m., and the parking lot was already full! We had to park at the far end of the lot and started the long trek to the tournament site, a good 200 yards away. I was able to bring in my backpack due to it being full of kid necessities (water cups, diaper changing supplies, etc.) and we entered the gates, greeted by a huge sign featuring Woods, Camilo Villegas, and Vijay Singh. We were wanting to find Tiger Woods immediately, but then we noticed a small crowd gathering around the 10th green. We waited with the crowd and discovered that none other than Spanish golfing star Sergio Garcia was about to come to the 10th tee and hit.
Right after he teed off, he came right over to the boys and offered to sign autographs. I had luckily grabbed some Sharpies and some Post-It Note pads right before I left the house, and had armed the boys with them while they were waiting for Sergio to hit. They came in handy!
Then we were off to find Tiger. I was hoping against hope that the boys would be able to just get a quick glimpse of him somehow, but also trying to be realistic that it might not happen. We kept asking course marshals along the way, “Where is Tiger” Some didn’t know, but then one person with a walkie-talkie asked around for us and told us to head for the 14th green. I put our 4 year old in the double stroller along with our toddler, and then my 7 year old and I ran as fast as we could through the course to reach the 14th green. Soon, we were at an intersection of the course where you could see parts of the 14th-17th holes, and it was here we discovered the playing group just ahead of Tiger’s, featuring Korean golfer Y.E. Yang, the recent Tiger-defeater and winner of the 2009 PGA Championship. He also stopped to sign autographs for the boys, which we appreciated. Tiger’s group came next, and the boys were able to get wonderful views of Tiger from pretty close range. He did not, unfortunately, stop to sign autographs, but we did get some good photos of him passing by.
We saw a number of other pros, but our toddler was at the end of his small little rope so we headed home after about two hours on the course. But we were able to create many amazing memories in that short span of time and I’m pretty sure this will become an annual tradition for us! Again, this is something that homeschooling makes easier to do, and I’m glad we had the flexibility and freedom to go and hang out with Tiger and the other PGA tour players for a morning!
And as an aside, I let my 7 yr. old son watch Obama’s speech to children on Tuesday morning. One thing he said was, “Obama was homeschooled!” in reference to Obama’s description of the time when he lived in Indonesia and his mom woke him up at 4:30 every morning to do schoolwork with him because they couldn’t afford the local school for English speakers. Whatever your political persuasion, if the sitting president of the U.S. can speak positively about the educational experience that he had at home with his mother, that can only help us all in our own efforts with our kids!
Week 2 was definitely easier than week 1, and now I feel a little more in the groove about how a day should go, but I’m still amazed at how fast the time flies and whether it’s realistic that we’re done by 2 or 2:30 p.m., but that’s still my goal. So far, we haven’t gone past 2:30 p.m. yet, to the delight of our eldest!
This week, one of the highlights was our “sailing ships” activity, meant to illustrate the challenges Columbus had in navigating ocean waters with nothing but wind power to propel his three vessels. I shaped aluminum foil into boat shapes, and Harry and Ron labeled the sails, then we put them in our bathtub for their maiden voyage:
The boys had fun creating their own gusts of wind and sending the boats from Spain (the right side of the tub) to the New World (left side of the tub). And of course littlest brother Dobby had to get into the action as well:
Harry is getting the hang of the kinds of activities we’ll be doing often and regularly this year, including the hallmarks of neoclassical education, such as narration (listening to a story/text and retelling what he heard to demonstrate comprehension), copywork (reading a selected piece of text then copying the text as a way to learn spelling, usage, and grammar), and nature/picture study. I’m sure it’s very different from the kinds of things he regularly did in school–we don’t do word searches, for example, and we do math every day, with drills several times a week. We memorize poetry, we read living history books together with the little brothers, and we have started cursive. I am still stressed out during the day but much calmer once we have finished school, which is delightful to experience. It’s still hard to tell how much of what we’re doing Harry will truly internalize and remember, but thus far this new path has been both challenging and rewarding. We’ll see how long the positive feelings last! Hopefully they will remain all year.
I’m happy to report that we’ve made it through the first official week of homeschooling! Here is a photo of the munchkins enjoying their “first day of school” supply bins that awaited them on the kitchen table the first day:
It hasn’t been ideal timing-wise, with DH out of the country last week (he arrived on Sunday and then we were set to start on Monday!)…I’ve been up late each night past 2 a.m. and am exhausted…but nonetheless, we began!
Our kids were excited from the get-go. They burst into our room around 7 on Monday morning and announced with great excitement, “It’s the first day of school!” The schedule is still a work in progress, but generally speaking, we do something like this:
7-8:30 a.m. Get ready for the day, morning chores for kids, breakfast
8:30-9:15 a.m. Music practice time for older boys
9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Bible
9:30-10:15 a.m. Math
10:15-10:45 a.m. Break
10:45-11:30 a.m. Language Arts (Spelling, Classical Writing Primer, First Language Lessons, New American Cursive)
11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. History/Geography/Science
12 p.m.-12:30 p.m. Break/Lunch
12:30-1:30 p.m. Quiet Reading Time
1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Language Time (Latin or Chinese)
2 p.m. Done!!!
The math and language arts are mostly for my eldest, Harry, (DS, 7 yrs old) although I try to fit in more informal time with brother Ron (DS, 4 yrs, old) as well. I include all the boys when we do Adventures in My Father’s World for our basis in Bible/History/Geography/Science; otherwise, with Harry we have started using Singapore Math 1A and a combination of Classical Writing Primer, First Language Lessons, New American Cursive, and Spelling by Sound and Structure for our Language Arts time. More specifically, this week we learned about the Vikings, a topic I haven’t thought about for decades if at all, as well as having fun with learning about the origins of the kids’ names and doing our first science experiment (“Yes, eggs float in salty water!!”)
Not that it’s all been smooth sailing…I find it stressful to manage several different needs at once, particularly when I’m trying to balance teaching Harry with handling an urgent issue from one of the other brothers. I also sometimes find it hard to relax the schedule, such as when a topic takes more time than I expected or when I feel the weight of trying to get through a particular assignment I had planned for the day. I keep trying to tell myself to be flexible with the schedule and hopefully I’ll be able to take my own advice!
The things I find enjoyable: I like learning alongside my kids, although I wish I had more time to be prepared to a deeper extent, particular in the area I consider my weakest subject, which would be history. I would love to spend the time to read everything I can on a subject before I introduce it, but it doesn’t usually work out that way. Still, I have a feeling that the person who will end up learning the most in the end will be me! And that’s not a bad thing…hopefully the kids are learning something as well!
Another thing I’ve discovered is that homeschooling makes the day FLY by. We are constantly busy and it doesn’t feel like any time is wasted! And yet, I still think I can say that we’ve begun to achieve one of our goals for doing this switch in the first place, which was to be done with school earlier than Harry’s peers, leaving more time for play and resulting in a more relaxed pace. Although it’s still a little early to say this for certain, and there is definitely a modicum of stress for me throughout the day, I’m hopeful that by the end of the year we will be able to say that homeschooling has resulted in our year being much more relaxing than our previous year. It’s wonderful for Harry that he is usually done with schoolwork by 2 p.m.!
I do think Harry misses his friends from school somewhat, and we were hoping to catch them on the playground one day this week, but by the time we arrived after Dobby’s nap, everyone had already left the school playground except for one friend. But at least Harry had the chance to talk with that one friend and make general plans to have a playdate one day. I will have to work hard to make sure he continues those social connections, because I would like him to not feel too separated from his school friends if at all possible.
We school for four days of the week, then Harry will start his Friday co-op classes in drawing, gym and computers on Sept. 4th. So this Friday, we made it a fun day–a day to go and do activities that we normally wouldn’t during school. DH took Harry and Ron to the local par 3 golf course, which has become one of their favorite activities this summer, then I took them to another of their favorite jaunts, Chuck E. Cheese. We continued our weekend of fun with a trip to Sugar Grove, IL, to see the U.S. women take on the Europeans at the Solheim Cup. We tried in vain to get near the pairing of Michelle Wie and Christina Kim (fellow Korean-Americans! see below) but the crowds were just too much–but then their golf cart drove right by us twice through the course of the rest of the afternoon, and that was a big bonus for the boys who were getting very patriotic with their “U.S.A.” cheers.
Lastly, this week I was able to get some confirmation that our efforts at home haven’t been in vain; we have been working on math this summer, trying to solidify Harry’s basic math facts, and on his latest drill, he was able to hit perfect 100 %s on all of his exercises, which was a first for him. The practice is paying off, and I’m extremely encouraged by that.
So now it’s on to week 2. We will be covering Christopher Columbus and begin our study of the names of Jesus, in addition to math (subtraction facts), spelling, handwriting (more cursive!), and the beginning of Latin! Should all be very very interesting!
Originally, I was planning to make our dining room the center of our homeschooling. We had recently purchased a good-sized table from Overstock.com, and I had cleared out our antique cabinets of their previous contents of plates and dining linens and replaced them with all our curriculum and school supplies. It was all nicely hidden away and seemed in theory to be an ideal solution.
That is, until I actually tried doing some school activities this summer as a test run. The dining room has ended up not being a practical space, at least not at this stage of life. The younger boys would always want in on the action and would be a pretty big distraction. It was hard to keep them occupied in such a way at the table that I could spend concentrated time with our eldest when needed. So, I started to brainstorm ideas for how to create another homeschooling space in our house that would work better for us. My handyman came down with me to our basement and asked me about one of the walls in that room, whether I could transform that wall into a homeschooling space. I had never thought of it before but decided to try it out. I also realized we had a perfect little niche in our basement for a narrow bookcase that could hold our curriculum and other items.
Four late nights and one IKEA run later, in addition to repurposing some existing furniture we already had, I was able to create the following area. We tried it out for the first time today and it has been a much better solution for us. We also have a futon in the basement that is a great place to read together and talk about whatever we’re learning, plus since most of our toys are in the basement, the younger boys have plenty to occupy themselves when we’re in school mode. I love how it has all turned out and am getting very excited for our first day of school in TWO WEEKS!
I have just spent a decent portion of the last three days in the company of about 500-700 homeschooling parents, at the annual convention of the Illinois Christian Home Educators (ICHE). The organization was established in 1983, more than 25 years ago, which was evident in how well the convention was run. I was impressed by their attentiveness to many small details, and it was a treat to have the convention so close to home, just a ten minute drive away. My goal was to go for inspiration, encouragement, and to finalize my remaining curriculum questions; I’m happy to report that all three of my goals were met. I didn’t necessarily make many new friends, but I chit-chatted with numerous attendees and exhibitors, and once they learned I was just starting out on this journey, they poured out their support, their phone numbers if I ever needed them, their soundbites of advice, and their numerous exhortations to “stick it with, even when it gets tough…and it will get tough!”
Never having gone to any sort of parenting conference before, I found myself enjoying the talks that went beyond homeschooling issues to include general parenting topics, such as helping your children develop their talents and gifts, which is a worthwhile subject to mull over whether you’re homeschooling or not. I spent long hours in the exhibit hall, where a bevy of homeschooling products awaited my perusal. (OK, I confess, I brought home more books than were absolutely necessary…but I do think I managed to show some restraint, such as buying only 7 books from the used book vendor when I could have easily bought 20!)
I had specific goals–choosing a math curriculum at long last, finalizing some sort of plan for the holes in my curriculum plan (geography, science, history). I had read The Well Trained Mind and Latin-Centered Curriculum over and over, and I thought I had largely settled on some combination of one or both approaches. But, although the typical neoclassical educational approach favors a chronological approach to history, I was swayed by Cheryl Lowe’s article about teaching chronologically after K-2, and so I needed to find some other way to structure the content about history as a result.
To make a long story short, I have ended up with the following plan for J.’s 2nd grade curriculum:
History, Geography, Science, Bible: My Father’s World, Adventures series
Handwriting: New American Cursive
Foreign Language: Prima Latina; weekly Chinese school
Music: continue piano lessons and supplement with occasional composer studies
Art, Computer, Gym: weekly co-op classes in Naperville
As for why we are learning Latin…this is a key component in a classical education and the reasons why can be better explained by others. I was not enthused by this part of the classical approach at first, but now I’ve become a convert and am thrilled to delve into this language with Harry. The first time I browsed through the Prima Latina curriculum, I fell in love with it. We’ll see how I feel by year’s end!
Time will tell how well these plans hold up but if we need to tweak, we will tweak. If I had to identify my “spine”, I would say that language arts is our main focal point, but I’m putting together a somewhat eclectic mix of this and that and hoping it will all gel at some point. So, there is our plan! I think we’ll actually begin some aspects this summer–Math, definitely, and getting through as much of FLL as we can. Looking forward to starting the adventure!
As mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to provide a more detailed explanation for why we are planning to homeschool. Here are the reasons:
- Improve Harry’s math and language arts: he has not progressed much this year in either area. He entered 1st grade with a strong reading ability, but much of the year, his class time was spent learning basic words. He has had very little phonics and he is not encouraged to learn correct spelling at this age, a philosophy that we are finding that we disagree with. Also, he hasn’t done nearly as much math as we were expecting. Harry has not even quite mastered addition and subtraction, and we’re already near the end of 1st grade. We feel that in the two areas of math and language arts, we can do better than the public school setting. We don’t fault Harry’s teacher for this; she has no choice but to teach to a group of 25 and there is no way to provide individual attention to every child. We’ve learned that the average public school student receives 3-5 minutes of individual attention a day. Even though I am not a teacher by training, if I can even provide Harry with direct one-on-one teaching in math and language arts every day, he should be able to progress at a faster pace than he has this year. We’re not trying to create a super-genius, but we do want what he studies to match what he is capable of, and to this point, his public school experience has not been able to do this.
- Control over subjects: I admit that I am a bit of a control freak, and once I began learning more about different homeschooling educational philosophies, I loved the idea that I could choose a path for Harry that would be of our own preference, not restricted by what the public school deems appropriate. I’ll explain more about this in another post, but we’ll be adopting a largely classical-based education, which means an emphasis on great literature, a focus on the development of the mind in a systematic way, with the end result being that the children growing up learning how to learn, loving what they learn, and being able to communicate in the written and spoken word effectively and persuasively. It feels like a children’s version of a liberal-arts college education, something I’m very familiar with myself.
- Concurrently, homeschooling allows us to let the kids focus on areas of interest and design experiences to help them deepen those interests. We took a day off school this year to take Harry and Ron to the Chicago Auto Show, since cars are such a passion of J. in particular, and homeschooling would allow us to continue to do activities such as that with more frequency and without the guilt of missing school.
- More time to enjoy childhood: This year has felt extremely stressful for us all. Every day of the week feels stretched and rushed, and we think that moving to homeschooling could actually ease the pressures for us all. Right now, Harry comes home around 3 p.m., and sometimes even later than that. By the time he comes home, has a snack, and has a little downtime, he has something to do homework-wise, plus piano time, with the end result that he barely has much time to play before dinner–and I highly value the benefit of play in young children. Our hope for our homeschooling schedule is that we would be largely done with our schoolwork and 30 minutes of piano time by the time or before school typically gets out for his peers (2:30 p.m.) After the younger brothers are awake, we will have more flexibility for outings and field trips before dinner, or for more unstructured play time than we have had this year. We just think this will result in a lot more joy for us all.
- Family focus: Earlier this year, I was wrestling with the question of, what is our family’s purpose? Instead of trying to do so many things and not do them all particularly well, I wanted to gain a sense of mission so that we could pare down those things that don’t fit with the mission and put more emphasis on the things that do. Homeschooling will absolutely force us to do this. There is no way around the fact that to do this well will require time, energy, creativity, and effort. I’m committed putting in that time, because I do feel we are being called to do this, and so for me, being “missional” in this season of life is to focus on my kids’ educational development. But it means that we will be paring down and/or letting go of other time commitments that were, frankly, wearing us thin this past year in particular. Homeschooling will help me say “no” to many wonderful opportunities that are just not right for us at this stage in life. This will be a big switch for me because I’m used to being super-involved, especially in my church context. But I just sense that right now, we need to have a simpler life. Homeschooling itself may not be that simple, but it provides us a focal point for our energies that makes sense to me right now.
- Strengthen family bonds: I like the idea that should we continue with homeschooling, sibling and family bonds will become even more important for our kids, as opposed to being replaced by peer relationships. Not that peer relationships aren’t important, and at some point that shift has to happen, but especially when the kids are young, I see the value in building a foundation of family relationships that will stay with them as they move into later childhood/adolescence/adulthood.
Why we are NOT homeschooling:
- To create a pristine, bubble-like environment for Harry and the other boys. No, this is not our desire, although we do confess that if Harry learns fewer slightly offensive, 1st-grade level jokes as a result of homeschooling, we will not protest! We know that we will need to be extra attentive to make sure that Harry has enough opportunities to connect socially with other children. We also know that we are not to retreat from the world, and that we must find ways to engage and enter into the lives of others. Of course, knowing this in our heads and making sure we take the right steps in reality are two different things! But we don’t necessarily believe that the only way to become socially adept is to spend most of one’s time primarily with one’s own age group, and we’ll be looking for ways to help Harry engage with other children without being necessarily restricted by the idea that being in a class with 25 other children is the only way to do so.
- Because we think that homeschooling is the only right way to educate children. No, this is absolutely not where we are. We have come to the place ourselves that we want to at least try this out for a year and see how it goes, but we certainly do not believe that this is the only right way. We don’t even know at this point if all three boys will be homeschooled entirely or in part, or for how long. All these questions will be answered in time, but right now we’ll just take it a year at a time. And by no means as we embark on this journey do we mean to communicate that others should be joining us. But, that having been said, if anyone reads our story and feels led to investigate the option themselves, we’d be happy to chat more about our decision!
Next post: more about the classical education philosophy that we are leaning towards adopting. Does this mean our boys may learn Latin??? Find out next time. =)